CHICAGO – The weather may be nippy, but that didn’t stop members of the city’s Greek-American community and friends from gathering for festivities on S. Halsted Street.
Celebrating the holiday season in Greektown, The National Hellenic Museum hosted Greek dance performances and children’s activities. Meanwhile, situated under the Greektown temple structures, with a breathtaking backdrop of Chicago city’s skyline, children sang traditional “kalanta” Christmas carols in anticipation of the lighting of the Greektown Christmas tree.
“We’re working very hard…to preserve the cultural depth here in Greektown and we are succeeding with the museum and other activities, but this is an activity that has gained nationwide acclaim,” said Dean T. Maragos, advisor to the Greektown Special Service Area.
Fathers Apostolos Georgiafentis of St. Demetrios in Chicago and Chrysanthos Kerkeres of St. George in Chicago commenced the ceremony with prayer. Students of Solon and St. George Greek schools then joined pianist Marika Panton’s tunes, singing traditional Greek carols, starting off with “kalin esperan arxontes.”
“Kala Christougenna” said 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. “This is the season of remembering to give, to help, and to love people, and we should not remember that only this season, but throughout the year,” he said.
The crowd counted down to the lighting of the 2018 Greektown Christmas tree, which took a moment to glow, prompting the comment “it’s running on Greek time.” The tree stands next to a handcrafted “karavaki” Greek Christmas boat.
Honorable guests included longtime Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who came to cheer on the children, and wish Greektown a Merry Christmas. “It’s an honor for me to be here in Greektown where I normally get a lot of liquid and gastronomical appeasement,” White said. “Behind me are these wonderful young people who are going to help run this great country of ours. It’s important for us to do all we can to make sure that they become properly educated so that they can go off into the world and make this world a better place for all of us,” he said.
The carolers and their fans continued their night walking up S. Halsted Street, spreading holiday cheer to local businesses including Ambassador Public House and Artopolis Bakery Cafe and Agora.